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as a hundred years ago it is left for brawny
arms and stout oars to master the eddying furies
of the dreaded Barrels !

The lifeboat scarce seems to make headway.
Wind and sea and tide are weighed against her,
but her gallant crew ply swift and steady oars.
Foot by foot she draws on ! They are nearing the
hobbling sea-chests! But can that furious stroke
last? Already the bowmen are pulling out of
time ! . . . Together again a last feverish sgurt I.



ERRORS OF JUDGMENT 35

The wet blades flash, flash, flash against the light
foam flies from their dipping oars only the
crest of a sea lies between them and the line ! . . .
Hard driven, she rides high and plunges into the
foaming hollow! . . . Again she rises to view.
A hoarse cheer from the trawler's men greet her.
The bowmen are leaning to the line the oars at
rest and the stout rope creaks to the weight of
the heaving boat.

Now they are hauling in, the cox'n standing up
at the stern, gazing anxiously ahead for sign of the
black jagged spur that he knows must be but
awash. At speaking distance he hollows his hands
to carry a hail against the wind. "The . . .
wreck . . . A-hoy! How . . . many . . . are
'oo?"

Sheppar'd, braced in the rigging, answers . . .
"Seventy-four."

"Seventy-four!" The lifeboatmen Vast haul-
ing on the rope and stare, incredulous, at the un-
steady figure in the rigging. "Seventy-four!"

They had expected only a few broken survivors
of a great disaster. Whose hand had herded
seventy-four into that grim shell of twisted plat-
ing the only standing remnant that had outlived
a wild night on the Barrels? . . . They think of
the stout line 'drifted down to them of the sea-
chests, black and unsightly in the white of broken
water! A master hand, whoever . . . f!

Cheering Hoarsely, they strainecl anew at th*3



36 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

rope. Here is a call for 'desperate haste, if
seventy-four were to be taken.off before the jagged
spurs of cruel rock showed above the ebbing
water! . . . "Another flag or cloth in the
riggin'," yells the cox'n. "Bring out th' Milford
boat! Diwedd-i! Thirty-fife iss all I can be
takin' ! . . . Hurry, I tell 'oo ! Give us 'oore
'oomin an' children!"

Nerved by the cheering lifeboatmen, the sur-
vivors of the Khandalla set to their task. The
women and children, in pitiable plight, are steadied
across the sloping deck; one by one, sent down
by ropes, caught at by brawny arms as the wildly
sheering lifeboat rises on a crest, are unlashed
the cradle is swung aboard again for the next!

A crowded hour! An hour of stir and action,
after the long, anxious wait in the gloomy fore-
castle.

Withal, danger is yet near! The furious
nor'west sea is not to be so easily robbed of its
prey! A huge breaker swings between the wreck
and lifeboat a lash of icy spray dashes to the
;eager eyes of the watchers. How stands the
boat?

Gallantly, when the mist and spume have
cleared, the veteran cox'n, sure of hand and eye,
bearing on the steering oar that has swerved his
buoyant craft aside.

Again sheering in the swaying rope with its
precious human load hoarse cries, cheer and en-



ERRORS OF JUDGMENT 37

couragement from the laboure'd men, as the
women, ill-clad, benumbed, sick of a night of
horrors, step bravely to the fearsome ordeal, con-
fiding to the stout arms of the gallant Welsh boat-
men.

A stirring hour! No one has eyes but for the
scene of rescue. No one marks the Doctor rising
to his feet from beside a prone, quiet figure. No
one sees the red blood that dyes an old man's
beard. Only the Doctor, standing moodily apart,
knows that Captain Day Captain Day of the
Centurion has cast off J



Ill

A DEEP-WATER CRITIC



, perhaps, and curious, the outcome of
a life apart, sailormen have yet an apprecia-
tion or the arts. They see the beauty in the crest
of a running sea, poetry in the grace of a leaning
ship, and hear the music in the sound of wind in
the rigging, in the cries of sea-birds circling in
the wake. Though they may dismiss the thought
with a wayward curse, or rebuke a sober shipmate
for speaking of it 'talkin' soft an' that' none
the less do they feel the influence of an impression,
momentary perhaps, but recognisable, when it is
recalled to them in picture, by words, or sound.

Once, in the Walker Gallery, I was looking at
'The Death of Nelson.' There was a man with
the look of a seaman standing by me. He had a
noticeable smell of drink and was chewing tobacco :
his blue cloth suit had hard shiny creases, as if
it had just been bent from his sea-chest. He, too,
was interested in the picture, and, recognising me
as seamanlike, hesaid something, and we got to
be talking about Nelson and his times.

u B'gad, mate, them fellers (the painters, he
meant) knowed wot they wos a-doin'. Look at

38



A DEEP-WATER CRITIC 39

that 'ere glim (lantern). Looks as if its trimmin'
wos forgot wen they brought th' Admiral down
... an' them eyes," pointing to a wounded sea-
man in the near foreground, "them's th' eyes
o' poor 'Arkness wot come off th' main yard las'
voy'ge, an' struck th' fife-rail, full on."

He told me of the accident how it happened
and by his eyes and rude simple speech, I saw it
all. As plain before me as the figure of the
stricken seaman, I saw 'Arkness come off the main
yard, clutching wildly at the sheets and lifts as he
fell: I heard him strike the rail and lie stretched
. . . saw the running figures on the deck . . .
' 'e never larsted th' night. We buried 'im out
there: Taltal, it wos," said my speaker, involun-
tarily twisting his shoulder to an imaginary
sou'west.

There was a sea-picture, a ship coming up to the
Isle o' Wight, clean curving sails, a good sense
of movement, and a fine breezy atmosphere.

"Jes wot it is," said my friend. " 'Omeward
boun'. Let 'er go, boys" he shouted loudly in a
sudden burst of enthusiasm that made some
visitors glance round, alarmed. A warden of the
galleries drew nigh. My mate stood back the
better to see the picture: he had a fine attitude,
the body leaning forward and his right arm swung
across in a grand sweep. What mattered that his
legs were slightly unsteady?

Possibly my appearance of sobriety reassure'd



40 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

the official : he stood by, awaiting further brawls,
but my mate was taken by a near picture of a
sombre landscape and had become silently critical,
so the officer moved aside and did no more than
keep us in view during our visit. There were
other fine pictures, but we did not feel that we
had a right to do more than look at them and
admire. With the sea-pictures it was different.
They were our world, and who had the right to
criticise the way a sea was moving off the skyline
if we had not? Too often had we watched, anx-
ious-eyed, for a break in the clouds not to know the
way of wind on the water, the scend of a cloud
breaking free in a welcome shift; well we knew
the curve of a standing sail and the relation it
bore to the sense of movement.

For a city of the sea, Liverpool has no great
representation of her foremost industry on her
chamber walls. In vajn we looked for the pictures
of the Mersey that should have stood boldly on
line: pictures of fine clippers coming to their
anchors under sail of pioneer steam-packets beat-
ing out their tread under short canvas and the
wind broad abeam blowing a trail of smoke to the
water of Majesties and Lusitanias canting on the
flood. In vain! There was little call for sea-
critics 'downstairs, so we went to an exhibition of
modern art in the upper galleries. Here we found
ourselves properly confronted. "Setting sail after
a blow," it was. A large canvas: a ship pitching



A DEEP-WATER CRITIC 41

Heavily in the track of a recent gale, and the crew
putting sail on her. It held a great message for
my mate (black smoke and an ever-throbbing
screw had not yet dulled his sea-fancy) , and he was
highly pleased. "Them seas . . . wot ye gets off
th' Plate. . . ." He wanted to shout some word
of cheer, to swing his right hand to the left shoul-
der in seamanlike admiration, but the cold grey
eye of a tall-hatted official was upon us (Huh!
. . . sailors!), and there was a group of young
ladies near by, worshipping at the shrine of a Cor-
poration purchase. So he contented himself by
nudging me somewhat painfully. "That's wot I
calls a picter," he said.

A sunset over water claimed our attention. A
blood-red sky with no clouds, only a slight density
near the horizon. I said it was remarkable, per-
haps unreal.

"That's where ye ain't in it, mister. Look a
here. If ye wos t' take all the colours in th' locker,
so 's ye had lots o' red an' yeller in, I'd find ye a
sky t' match it. Ain't ye never 'card o' wot them
Dagoes calls th' blood o' Chris' . . . them
Dagoes wot loads ye ballast in th' Plate?"

I had not heard.

"Well. It's a sky like that, an' it comes afore
one o' them pamperos. Min' Ah wos lyin' in
Monte Video on'st, an' we 'ad a sky all blood-
red an' never a cloud, an' th' fishin' boats wos all
comin' in not rowin' shipshape same 's me an'



42 < BROKEN STOWAGE'

you 'd clo . . . them shovln' th' oars same 's they
wos pushin' a bloody barren" He spat into a dark
corner, and said something more about Dagoes,
then continued "... Nex' day we 'ad a gale
'owlin it was, an' her divin' into it same 's we wos
off th' 'Orn an' a big German barque driv' down
on us an' took th' fore-to'gallan'mas' out o' 'er
an' th' boom an' started all th' 'ead gear. . . .
Two ships wos driv' ashore, an' that's wot comes
out o' them skies wot they calls th' blood o'
Chris'."

There was a prominent picture of a fishing lug-
ger running in from sea. 'Nearing Home,' it was
called. My mate's eye was drawn by the light
draught of the boat. "Looks 's if they ain't got
no catch aboard, ridin' 'igh an' light like that.
Dunno wot th' '.ell that feller at th' tiller looks so
pleased about. . . . An' it fine fishin' weather
too."

It was an impressionist picture that annoyed my
mate; an impression of a scene in dock, with masts
and funnels and hulls all mixed up. The colouring
was good, the impression was there if detail was
wanting, but the ships might have been ninepins or
egg-boxes or anything. At first my mate was per-
plexed, then amused, then indignant.

"'Oly Sailor," he said! "Wotinell 's this?
Ships, begad, or I'm a Dutchman." He burst into
a fit of rude laughter. "Ships it is, mister an'
min' ye look at them tawps'l yards. . . . Ships



A DEEP-WATER CRITIC 43

wi' double tawps'ls below th' main an' an 'angman's
gibbet f'r a gaff an' spars a stickin' out as thick as
badgers 'airs." In his excited state he seemed to
have the idea that a strong gale was blowing, that
he was hailing me from the fore-royal-yard, that
heavy, hearty work was afoot he bawled, as
though a squall were suddenly upon us. ...
"Them fellers 's got some cheek, mister. That's
wot Ah calls it blamed cheek t' be paintin' things
like that. . . . 'Oly Sailor, look at them . . ."

The tall-hatted gentleman had approached, and
was speaking severely to us. "If we could not
behave ourselves we would have to go out. Such'
language could not be tolerated. It was disgrace-
ful." Shamefaced, we went out, parted, and went
our ways.

I never learned his name, but I often think of
my comrade of an hour, the man who chewed
tobacco and spat in dark corners of a Temple of
the Arts, and who, with me, was put out of the
Walker Gallery.

I hope he has a good ship, and is still fond of
pictures. I hope, even after what happened, he is
not ashamed to show his feelings and still swings
his right arm to the left, his body swaying forward,
and shouts, "Let 'er go, boys'' when he sees a good
picture of a ship under sail !



IV
UNCLAIMED REWARDS

' I A HE purser has many friends, the weather is
wet, and the taverns are cosy, and so, though
twelve has struck, we are still in the Shipping
Office and waiting to be paid off.

We try to engage the office people in conversa-
tion, to learn something of the doings in Glasgow
port while we have been on our three months'
voyage to India and back, but it is their busy day,
and they have little time to spare. We scan the
'Notices to Mariners' with professional curiosity
and learn of new lights and beacons in remote
Highland bays, places where only seamen go who
can name them correctly: we read a long and
formidable list of convictions obtained by the
Board of Trade for infringements of the
Merchant Shipping Acts, learn of the awful penal-
ties imposed for overloading a ship or for taking
a Customs officer to sea for company: interest our-
selves in the toll of boarding masters, tailors, run-
ners, and other 'queer fellows' being rounded up
for overzeal in quest of custom. Seamen, too, for
altering certificates and discharges, for failure to
join, for desertion and insubordination, have their

44



UNCLAIMED REWARDS 45

punishments here recorded, and the large board,
heavily placarded with untidy leaflets, forms a
sorry record of seafaring iniquity a sort of mari-
time black list.

Depressed by these records of legal proceedings,
it is with a sense of relief that we turn to 'Un-
claimed Rewards,' a large bill with strong black
headlines that attracts our attention, and we
employ ourselves conjecturing the possible where-
abouts of those absent-minded mariners whose
awards the Board of Trade are at such pains to
advertise. Here and there on the list there are
names scored through: some have come by their
own; but the placard is of a long date and stained
by time.

Here are gold, silver, and bronze medals; sex-
tants, binoculars, and silver plate; diplomas, and
sums of money ranging from an item of 193. 2%d.
(the exchange would make the odd coppers) to an
award of 72 by a South American Government
for wrongeous arrest. The list reminds us that
adventure and romance are still to be met at sea.
Gallantry unheralded by the Press, unnoticed by
the pwblic, and only recorded in some obscure
log-book, is here set out in single lines, cold and
terse, of official print. Although British seamen
for the time being, these unvoiced heroes are
mostly of foreign birth, men of all nations who
answer to the sailor terms of 'Dutchman' or
'Dago.' Serving from time to time under many



46 * BROKEN STOWAGE'

flags, they are not so easily traced as the Britisher,
and thus their awards fall to be advertised in the
Shipping Offices. We hazard opinions to account
for the difficulty in tracing seamen.

"Desertions abroad," says the Mate. "Con-
scription on the Continent too. Most of these
foreign seamen serving with us have little liking
for official enquiries: too often it ends in their
being hauled off to the 'happy Vaterlant' and a
year's spell in a disciplinary battalion. ... So Yon
Shmit von Liverbool becomes George Davis, b'long
Hool on his next voyage. He would find it pretty
hard to prove his identity after such a walk
round."

It is still raining outside, and above the glazed
part of the office windows I can see the flags of
the Channel boats hanging motionless against the
masts. From the next room the official voice of
a deputy superintendent reaches us. He is read-
ing in a passionless monotone the text of obliga-
tions and emoluments, of fines and forfeitures, to
a depressed and motley crowd who are signing
on for the westward. Having read the articles
he repeats the important part of the agreement,
"that the crew are to be on board, sober, at five
minutes past twelve midnight." Then there is a
shuffling of feet, rustling of waterproofs, and sub-
dued hum, as the men stand forward to sign. I
turn again to the poster.



UNCLAIMED REWARDS 47

"J. Jansen, seaman of the barque Maria of
Yarmouth, N.S. . . . 2, for rescue of crew of
brigantine Lauretta of Beaumaris."

Not a very princely sum, indeed, but it is not
likely that J. Jansen thought of 2 . . . or 22
. . . when he took his place on the heaving
thwart. Where is J. Jansen now? Has he met
the fate from which he helped to rescue the crew
of the Lauretta of Beaumaris, or does he consider
his gallant action as merely a bit of a yarn to help
out a dreary middle watch? Delay in granting
the award has possibly helped him to forget the
occasion that called for it, and he may now be
shouldering a musket on the ramparts by the
Scheldt or combing the beach at Callao, ignorant
that his deed has called forth more than the cheers
of his whilom shipmates !

"Seaman and boy of smack Ark of Hull, for
services to crew of Alma. ... 2 ..." Their
very names unknown !

"Amos Stradlander, mate; Jan Mayer, steward;
and three others, all of the barque Chinampas of
Pictou, . . . for rescue of crew of ship Ellerbank
of Liverpool."

A mate and four hands a boat's crew! Queer
place that for a steward second hand in a life-
boat ! Evidently it was a call for volunteers. One
could picture the scene. A huge Atlantic sea and
swell and a foul black sky. The Ellerbank rolling



48 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

in the trough of the sea like a "dead thing, her
boats gone, and signals of distress flying from
what once were tall and shapely spars. The
Chinampas hove to to windward of the wreck, and
her captain and mate talking of the 'chances.' To
leeward of the quarterhouse the crew would be
gathered, huddled and bent to meet the driving,
biting sea and spray. Anxious eyes are cast on
the towering sea and on the wreck, muttered mis-
givings pass from man to man, and ever their eyes
turn to the two officers talking together of the
'chances.' Here is no multitude to applaud, no
amphitheatre for a deed of valour! Naught but
two lone ships on a heaving sea; . . . the mate
starts to take off his heavy sea-boots and the cap-
tain asks for a crew.

At first, no answer to the call. The men hang
back, eyeing one another furtively; an elder hand
stares long to windward and shakes his head.
And now the steward (probably seaman as well,
for they have no use for idlers aboard these
bluenose barques) steps forward and ranges him-
self by the mate. . . . And that "What?

Hang back when a 'dish-washer' stands out?" No
hesitation now! So the boat is manned and

The rustle of papers and the ring of coin bring
me back to the rainy Broomielaw and the Shipping
Office. I hear my name called in an official under-
tone, and turn to find the Chief counting his money



UNCLAIMED REWARDS 49

and the purser handling my account of wages. I
transact my little business, pipeclay my ship's
account, and stow the balance away in my stamp
case.

Business has now become slack in the Shipping
Office, and, but for our signing off, there is little
to do. The junior clerks are taking the paper
off their cuffs and are preening themselves before
going out to lunch. At the end desk a maudlin
seaman is stating, for the benefit of nobody in
particular, his definite opinion of his late captain's
course of conduct. The stalwart indoor police-
man who attends to these little affairs eyes him
tolerantly, but not without professional interest.

We pass out into the rainy street and find a
crowd of seamen about the doors seeking employ-
ment. A dreary-looking crov/d indeed, listlessly
pacing to and fro in twos and threes in the lee
of the high buildings. They are mostly foreigners
and coloured men, for the local seamen and west
Highlandmen, relying on the presence of a stout
countryman in the Office (who will send round a
'fiery cross when 'sights' are going), are seated in
the Bethel reading-room, turning over the pictures,
as like as not, in last century's Illustrated London
News.

Down the street, taking the whole breadth' of
the pavement, a 'homeward bounder' steers an
erratic course. By the trim of-him, he has been



50 'BROKEN STOWAGE')

newly paid off and is flush of a long voyage's pay.
He has on a decent suit of very new and very
blue serge. He waves a brand-new yellow kid
glove to emphasise his loud but incoherent re-
marks. (Its fellow is probably lying among the
sawdust in some sailor-town public-house.) His
clothes, all mud adown one side, show that the
last publican he has visited has had jealous regard
for his licence. The polish on his fine new boots
shows the activity of the Broomielaw shoeblacks,
and his good felt hat (but for a dinge and a smear
of mud) must have cost a solid sum. The sea-
men about the Office doors make way for him,
sympathetically, and with many envious glances.
(Some among them would quite likely have been
in the same prosperous condition a week ago.)
He lurches heavily past us, asking himself ques-
tions in a many-vowelled dialect of northern
Europe, and bears up for the lona Vaults, several
of the 'hard ups' following, in case he should have
a difficulty in procuring supplies. We gaze after
him with nothing of contempt in our looks, for
have we not just been reading of 'unclaimed
rewards' ?

At the corner he pauses to throw a curse and
a shilling at an importuning street urchin. He
collides violently with a lamp-post, and appeals
to many deities against the presence of such an
obstruction to safe navigation.

I think of a mate taking off his heavy sea-boots,



UNCLAIMED REWARDS 51

of a captain asking for a crew, an'd turn to have
another look at 'Jack ashore.'

Qulen sabe? He may be J. Jansen or even Jan
Mayer, once steward of the barque Chinampas,
of Pictou.



THE SCRIBE

ANNAJI SAKHARAM is his name, an'd he sits
low on the verandah of the little branch
Post Office outside the Prince's Dock Gate. He
is quite unofficial, and has no legitimate connec-
tion with the 'dignified B.A. who issues stamps and
Money Orders at the wicket. True, I have seen
them conversing amiably together when business
is slack, or when some untoward event has hap-
pened in the vicinity, but for the most part they
preserve an air of distance during business hours.
The verandah lies north and south, and it is only
in the forenoons, when the sun is behind the Office,
that Annaji is prepared to attend to his clients.
He comes, then, about eight in the morning, sets
out his low stool, his portfolio of papers, his pens,
ink, sealing-wax, his pouch of betel-nut and lime
he puts carefully on a sheltered ledge. I think
he has two turbans. I have seen him walking
on the street, and his appearance then 'did not seem
to me to be so dignified as when he sits writing his
letters. I think he must have an ordinary head-
'dress for leisure I know he has an important one

52



THE SCRIBE 53

with a gold threa'd an'd scalloped edges for busi-
ness hours. Then, his spectacles. Ah! Never
did spectacles express so much learning and ex-
perience as Annaji's. They are quite round, with
thick nickel rims; the curves of the plated holders
go completely round his ears and stick out under
the lobes like pendent jewellery. He wears the
glasses low down on his nose, and peers over the
tops when interrogating his clients. Annaji's face
is placid and unlined, so it is difficult to come at
his age; but it is many years now since first I saw
him sitting, cross-legged, at his writing, and he
looks the same now as then.

Truly, Annaji Sakharam has all the secrets of
the Bunder at his finger-ends. He it is who writes
all the letters, the petitions, the statements for the
waterside folk. He can turn them out in Marathi,
Urdu, Indo-por, and English though it is at the
latter he shines. If you are Albuquerque de Loma,
and your wife Concepcion, down at Goa, has writ-
ten to you for more money, there is nothing easier
than to sit cross-legged by Annaji's side, state your
case clearly, and leave it to him to explain to her
that rupees do not grow readily on the trees.
Should you be Najib Shaboodeen Abdooraman,
lascar serang, and wishful to draw your Chief
Officer's attention to the small matter of a rise
in your pay, no one can better put forth your
claims than Annaji, the scribe. He will question
you for so far as that is needful but you may



54 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

take it that your confidence will not He abuse'd.
While it is true that there is a regular tariff in
the matter of letter-writing, I have the idea that
there is some such arrangement as a post-settle-
ment should one's material prosperity be enhanced
by the aid of Annaji's facile pen.

The other day I received a communication from
my old barber. This was the letter:

RESPECTED SIR I beg to undersigned Johan Barber,
Sir. I have been served above steamer five years between
in this five years 3 Time I was went to my native coun-
try by keeping subsitude of to perform my shaving work.
Last time in month of June when I was arrived by steamer


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Online LibraryDavid W. (David William) BoneBroken stowage → online text (page 3 of 16)